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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Week before Erev Rosh Hashanah - Sermons written?

I am sitting at my desk in my office, Maroon 5 playing on Pandora, anxiously perusing a variety of news websites:;;; and yes, even  Sure, my Erev Rosh Hashanah sermon is already written...but as I pore through these articles, I realize that things could change any moment.  The sermon I have prepared could very well not be the one I deliver - we live in an ever changing world, so therefore our best plans sometimes get left behind.  After all - How did God respond when man said, "I had plans...?"  God laughed.

So, this is not anything new.  The only way I can be totally sure that the sermon I give on any given night is to write it 5 minutes before services begin.  And, while I believe I do a fairly good job with writing sermons (and sometimes quickly), I am sure that I could not accomplish that feat!  The message - write, write, write and prepare to rewrite.  After all, you never know when certain events that occur will require a response from the rabbi.  It has been suggested to me by several congregants that sometimes they really desire to hear our thoughts (and rest assured, sometimes they do not!).

During the past year, we had so many deaths in our congregation.  At one point, I decided to write a sermon entitled "How We Speak to our Children about Death."  Here is the link I posted:  I believed that (and I still do) some of our parents were challenged with regards to how to speak to their children about death.  There is no one right answer - so my sermon presented several options.  From the response of those that approached me afterward, I know this was a sermon that proved to be helpful in some regards.  There are issues I have chosen to not address from the Bimah.  Maybe my thoughts will change as the years go..we shall see.

So, what happens if the US/Great Britain address the "situation" in Syria with force?  Will we find ourselves in another World War?  What are the goals that we are trying to accomplish?  Will these goals be presented before a response occurs?  I know for a fact I cannot answer these, the truth is we will all have to wait to find out what happens next.  There is no need (at this point) to become frantic or panic. What we can and should do is to pay attention to a variety of news sources...follow what is going on.  Do your best to read as much as you can and when and if the US/GB respond, we will react as we should.

Will I give the sermon next Wednesday evening I have already written?  My hope is yes...for that means that whatever happens between now and then would have been swift and NOT problematic.  Or, maybe there will be no response.  During this time of reflection, during the month of Elul, let us approach each day with love for our family and friends; let us approach each day with a calm demeanor and live our lives as normal as any other day.

Dear friends - my hope is that we will bring the New Year in with sweetness, hope and joy!

Baruch Atah Adonai, Asher B'Yado Nefesh Kol Chai v'Ruach Kol Basar Ish.
"Praised are You, Adonai, in whose Hand is every living soul and the breath of humankind."

Rabbi Erin Boxt 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A new school year, no more summer, and Elul!

Greetings Y'all!

As I walked back with Batya from the bus stop today - Carlie is now a 2nd grader - I began to contemplate all that was new or awesome in our lives.  Of course, I would take me way too long to describe everything that is new and awesome in our lives.  So, let me focus on just a few things:

1) Carlie is now a 2nd grader.
2) I finished my first year as faculty at URJ Camp Coleman.
3) Summer has officially (at least in my eyes) ended.
4) The month of Elul has begun.

Yes, you read that correctly - Carlie is a 2nd grader.  I still remember very vividly her response to our great friend Rabbi Jen Gubitz in Israel back in 2007 - "dep."  For Carlie that meant thank you.  I also remember her telling Batya, "Not table, Ima, SHULCHAN."  Wow has the time flown.  She is turning into a true diva (or maybe she already was and I have been in denial).  She is a beautiful little girl with so much potential and I am so proud and blessed to be her Aba!  It truly is amazing how smart she is and how interested she is in so many things.  Although she frustrates us sometimes (Okay a lot of the time), both Batya and I are so excited every day at the unbelievable and awesome new things she learns and tries.  Soon, she will be heading off to college and we will look back wondering where all the time went....which brings me to point #2 and 3...

With the start of school for Cobb County, summer is over.  I am now back to work on a somewhat normal schedule (as normal as a rabbi's schedule can be).  This, of course, means that my time at Camp Coleman as a rabbi has come and gone.  What an experience it was.  It truly was special to return to my old stomping grounds no longer as staff, but as a rabbi.  It was so inspiring to see the kids and their counselors working together to create what is and always will be such an amazing Jewish community.  So many great experiences: learning about Chiune Sugihara and the thousands of Jews he saved by writing them visas to get out of Nazi Europe and travel to Japan (even against the wishes of his government), skyping with one of the children of the Sugihara survivors, presenting a gift to the Japanese Consul, meeting and working with "Chocolate Thunder," aka Daryl Dawkins, hanging out with Beth Schafer and other colleagues, reacquainting with old friends (Jules Wolfberg and her family), seeing Carlie have the time of her life...and, oh yes - being with the campers and staff and truly being a part of their community.  Bobby Harris really has done amazing things at Camp Coleman - including the 2nd session kids skyping with Natan Sharansky, a prominent Israeli politician.  So much has happened this year...which leads me to point #4...

The Month of Elul - a time for reflection as we prepare for the High Holy Days.  During the month of Elul, we spend time examining the previous year and thinking of ways for us to improve ourselves in the next year. It is not just about asking forgiveness to those whom we have wronged (although that is a big part of it). We should also work extremely hard to figure out ways to improve in the areas in which we need to.  For example, I plan on working extremely hard this month on the following: reflecting on my relationships with people and how I can approach these relationships in the future, working to foster my professional relationships with my friends/colleagues in Atlanta (and outside of Atlanta), and working extremely hard to improve myself physically (getting better in shape, etc.)  There are so many ways to stay focused this month. One way is to go to Craig Taubman's website and sign up to receive "Jewels of Elul:"

My dear friends - take some time this month also for yourself.

Rabbi Erin Boxt